Saturday, September 27, 2014

Conversation with Jim Key, UUA Moderator

Conversation between Jim Key, UUA Moderator
and Rev. LoraKim Joyner
September 17, 2014

"This topic is worthy of debate." - Jim Key, UUA Moderator

Many thanks to Jim Key for taking the time and being present to the worthiness of the democratic process in our association of congregations!

Seeking clarification of the  UUA bylaws, I spoke with Jim Key for about 45 minutes last week.  He was quite helpful for understanding the process of seeking a change to the First Principle.

Because the Principles are a "C" bylaw, they come under special process that is meant to seriously and deeply engage the breadth of Unitarian Universalism.  Any resolution that comes to the General Assembly (the body that approves bylaw changes) therefore goes through a specific process.

1.  It is placed on the General Assembly Business Agenda by February 1 of the year of the General Assembly. This can happen by the UUA Board of Trustees, the Commission of Appraisal, 1 District, or 15 congregations.  All 15 congregations must pass the same resolution.

2. Once it is on the Agenda, the Board of Trustees works closely with the sponsors of the bylaw amendment resolution, in this case, the congregations that passed the resolution, and the sponsors and collaboratory team of the First Principle Project.  Their aim is to prepare Unitarian Universalists for the upcoming vote.

3. At the General Assembly there is a mini-assembly before the vote takes place. At this time the wording of the bylaw can be changed, but not substantively. This means that the wording can be rephrased within the First Principle, but probably no changes to other Principles will be allowed. 

4. After the mini-assembly the reworded resolution comes to a vote. The first vote is not to pass the bylaw amendment, but to determine, by simple majority, whether to assign the essence of the bylaw change to a study commission (not to last longer than 2 years).   At this point, delegates do not discuss which changes to make, but basically are saying by a positive vote that the topic is worthy of study, reflection, and discussion.  Jim Key feels that it is likely that the vote to refer this to a study commission would pass, as he said, "This topic is worthy of debate."

(It is possible at this same General Assembly that a delegate could call for a second vote seeking to pass the bylaw resolution, and forgo the study commission. This takes an 80% majority, and Jim Key said this is unlikely to pass, as would any issue at this stage of study)

5.  After this vote, it is up to the UUA Board to appoint the members of the study commission.  In the words of Jim Key, he would want the study commission "to go to a group of people to study it who understood the process and had people on it who wanted it to pass."

6. After 1-2 years, the study commission comes back with a resolution.  They may choose to change the First Principle with the exact words or different wording, or might suggest changes to other Principles or even adding Principles.  They are guided by the essence of original resolution.

7. Their resolution first goes to a mini-assembly where it can be changed, and then to the floor for a 2/3rd's vote. If it passes, it comes up again for another 2/3rd vote at the following GA before it becomes permanent.

The highlights of this conversation for me are these:

1.  We have true collaboration with the UUA Board of Trustees in this process.

2.  At this point congregations need not worry about the final wording of any change to the Principles.  True, the exact wording is worthy ofdiscussion because it helps us understand one another and our world, and we need to be mindful of holding discussions that deepen our relationships and broaden our ability to care for one another. 

3. Basically, by passing the bylaw amendment resolution in a congregation, the congregation is saying that the issue is worthy of study, discussion, and reflection.  Only after serious time and deepening, and wider engagement, will we as a body know how to put into our institutional practices the essence of the suggested change to the First Principle.

4. This is good news!  We can get this more easily on the General Assembly Agenda knowing that the final wording will be worked out slowly and broadly over time.

I am asking for discussion now on the following:

1. What do you make of the strategy to pass this resolution in your congregation knowing that it will most likely go to a study commission?

2.  Do you think now is the time to discuss any possible changes to the proposed amendment, or shall we wait until it gets placed on the General Assembly Agenda?

3. If you were to consider other words or actions that reflect the essence of the change, what would you suggest? Some suggest using different words in the First Principle, changing the Seventh Principle, or adding an additional Principle.

You can place your comments in the comment section of this blog, and also submit a reflection piece to me and I can post it here. I am specifically asking several others to submit a blog that  addresses how they would move forward so that we can incorporate their wisdom and experiences into how we as individuals and congregations engage, as well as the First Principle Project Collaboratory Team. 

Make it so and thank you for your engagement!

In hope of all beings,

 Rev. LoraKim Joyner, DVM
First Project Facilitator

Here is the proposed bylaw amendment resolution each congregation will pass:

We the (insert congregation name) do hereby call on the General Assembly of the UUA to omit "every person" and replace with "every being" in Article II Principles and Purposes, Section c-2.1 Principles, Line 12, UUA bylaws.
So far we have 3 congregations that have passed it, and 4 sponsoring organizations:

CUUPS (Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans)
UU Buddhist Fellowship
PACE (Presidential Advisory Committee on Ethical Eating)
UUAM (Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Experiencing the Inherent Worth and Dignity of All Beings - Part II


Their Behavior Impacts Ours

The Love of Pigs - Marcia Schloss

Four years ago an encounter with four grown pigs and one little piglet changed my life. I was picking up my
20 year old daughter from The Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY after her month stay as an intern there. She asked if I wanted a tour of the rescued farm animals and animal lover that I am I said "yes please". The tour was wonderful and I met curious goats and majestic cows, adorable sheep, and all sorts of chickens and ducks but the most captivating and delightful animal was an adorable pink piglet named Kim Gordon. Kim Gordon played with us in the grass under a tree much like a puppy might, if that puppy loved to jump and frolic and rout with her nose in the grass. When she could control her exuberance and hold still long enough, she seemed to enjoy our pats. Next, my daughter suggested we feed the pigs the peanut butter sandwiches she had made. I was hesitant. Inside the barn, in a small room clustered together, were four quite large and quite strong appearing full grown pigs. She and I entered the room and each took a piece of a sandwich and held it out to one pig after another. I was amazed at how gracefully they maneuvered their massive frames around the two of us to gently take the pieces of sandwich from our fingers. Standing in the middle of this group of humble, clean and lovable animals I knew I could never eat pulled pork or a piece of bacon again. Thanks to that day and those pigs I became vegan and that has been the very best decision. Now, the way I travel through my life is more closely aligned with my love of animals.

Birds and Dogs - Hal Estry

The birds:

Last evening as I was mowing the large lawn in back of the house I was visited again by the Purple Martins.  First one, then two, then several until there were approximately a dozen swooping back and forth across the field.  They have learned that when they hear the sound of the mower, or perhaps, the look of the tractor, I don't know which, there will be lots for them to eat, as my mowing stirs up lots of insects.  Once I saw a rather larger bug flying across the field when its trajectory was intercepted by that of a Purple Martin-POOF no more bug!!  They continue for a few minutes after I stop, then, perhaps realizing that the party is over, they leave.  They have been doing this for the last 20+ years.  I suspect that the elders teach the young ones, either directly, or by their actions, that the mower means food and so pass the information down from generation to generation.  It is a joy to see them swooping about while I am mowing.  They will often come within three feet of the tractor before pulling up.  They never come closer, probably due to their excellent Sonar. 

The smart little dog:

When our daughter lived with us, many years ago, she brought with her a Toy Collie Mix, a shelter dog.  Nicky was a very smart little dog, and a good vegetarian as well.  For example, when you were cutting up food for dinner, if you dropped a piece of carrot or celery, don't bother bending over to pick it up-she was on it.  My story though, is about the black raspberry bush.  We had a large bush of the rather large, tame, black raspberries and when we went to pick them, Nicky would, of course, come along.  Whether we fed her some, or whether she simply observed us and became interested I don't remember, but soon she was picking her own.  Since her 'hands' didn't work for the job she had learned to curl her lips around the berry to avoid being pricked in the mouth by the sharp spine next to the berry.  After that we left the ones down near the ground for her.

Cat Friendship - Larry Kelland

A close friend of mine, Sharon, had a cat named Gal (Galabriel) who took a liking to me. She was rather gray, and striped - actually the wild type coloring.  Whenever I visited, she would come over to me to be petted, actually insisting on being petted. Sharon told me Gal was only that friendly to me and not everybody. One time I was talking to Sharon on the phone, and Gal would come right up to the phone - even on the phone she recognized my voice! My friendship with Gal was a close one, for about nine years, when Gal died from kidney problems.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Embracing a Newer Universalism

In Rev. Ford’s article, “Embracing  a New Universalism,” in the Fall 2014 UU World, he speaks of how we arrived at  a new Universalism when we accepted in 1984 the 7th principle which highlights a “we ethic” by professing that we are all connected.  Combining this with the individualism of the 1st Principle, he says we find “an ethic for our individual see how we need to relate to the planet from which we take our being.” 

It is time for an even newer universalism.  This older universalism, now 30 years in the past, does not take into account the preciousness of individual lives of all species.  It says we take care of systems and the earth, but does not indicate that the individuals within this ecosystem matter and have inherent worth and dignity.  An ethic of “I” and “We” is not complete until the individualism of the First Principle includes all beings. For that aim, the First Principle Project promotes changing the principles so that we affirm and promote “the inherent worth and dignity of every being.”

This process will be hard, just as it was to change the Principles in 1984.  Ironically, Rev. Ford likened the 1984 challenging process by saying “you don’t really want to visit the sausage factory.”  Indeed we don’t, and neither do any other members of species. 

We are all connected, and we each  matter. This is the newer Universalism I believe we are ready to embrace.

Rev. LoraKim Joyner, DVM
First Principle Project Facilitator